When Did I Become an Expert?

Perception is everything.

Of course, “everything” changes depending on the context. In real estate, location is everything. On tests, preparation is everything. In religion, it’s faith. In sports, it’s being able to make adjustments to your opponent.[1] But in life in general, it’s all about perception.

The way we perceive our environment has a direct correlation to the ways we interact with it. A simpler way is to think of the conventional difference between optimism and pessimism. Imagine a crowded rush-hour subway, for instance. The train is moving at normal speed until, just before the stop where many of the passengers will exit, the train stops because of train traffic. The pessimist likely starts getting upset because he is assuming he will now be late for work. The optimist may get upset also, but “looks on the bright side of life”[2] by saying that at least he gets to spend more time in the air-conditioned subway car before going out into the hot and terribly humid New York City air. One sees the glass half empty, the other sees it half full.[3] It’s all about how we see things.

Here’s my point. I had lunch with a friend of mine yesterday whose wife is expecting their first child. We ended up talking a lot about how they have been preparing for the baby’s arrival, both in terms of items they’ve been buying and what sorts of emotions they’ve been experiencing. Then my friend started asking me questions about things that my wife and I had bought when our son was born and what I advice I had for him and his wife. As I was answering, it suddenly hit me that he hadn’t asked just to be nice; he really wanted to know what I thought.[4] I had somehow become a trusted source of information.

How did this happen? I don’t see myself as an expert. I’m just taking things a day at a time hoping I don’t screw up too badly. Remember, I’m the guy who almost cut off his son’s finger. Why should people trust what I have to say? Trusting my wife, I can understand. She’s with Eitan all day, every day. She knows more about his habits, the food he eats, the inflections in his cries and just about anything else that happens with him. Why ask me?

It was just a few minutes later that the second revelation came: I am a trusted source of information. It doesn’t matter if I feel like I’m making mistakes half the time because I’m still an expert on all of the things that I’ve been through since Eitan was born. Every day has provided new information to add to the catalog. I can feel confident giving certain pieces of advice because I actually do know what I’m talking about. And even if I do make a mistake, that just gives me a new experience to learn from and to use to teach others.

It’s about time I started seeing things differently.

[1] Having physical talent helps too, but it’s not everything. Professional sports are littered with examples of people with amazing talent who didn’t make it for one reason or another.

[2] It’s okay if you just started whistling.

[3] And the Chicagoan says, “Water? Ain’t you got no beer?” (Credit: Jim Benton)

[4] Lest you think this was just a minor narcissistic incident for me, he actually said afterward that my opinion meant something. So there.


The Beginning
About Aaron Yavelberg

Aaron Yavelberg is, in no particular order, a father, husband, son, brother, cousin, friend and social worker. You can read his personal blog at http://sleepingontheedge.wordpress.com/.

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